Giving £40m social care cash to councils ‘like putting foxes in charge of hen house’
A social care leader fears that giving the bulk of a new £48 million funding package for social care to Welsh councils will be like “putting foxes in charge of hen house”.
The Welsh Government announced the new £48m package of funding to support social care in Wales this morning, with the majority of the funding – £40m – allocated to local authorities.
But Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales which represents independent care providers, said that local authorities cannot be trusted to distribute the cash from Welsh Government fairly, and would “cream the money off the top” before it reached the front line.
He said Wales had been blighted by a postcode lottery of funding ever since responsibility for managing social care budgets had been handed to councils more than a quarter of a century ago.
“We are hugely grateful to the Welsh Government for prioritising social care in this way and it is clear they recognise the unprecedented challenges we have faced and continue to face,” he said.
“We would not have had the exemplary support we have received so far during this pandemic had it not been for Welsh Government who put in place very strong criteria.
“The first tranche of the hardship fund which ran until the end of June last year was given to local authorities without guidance and, in some areas, it did not reach where it should have done, with some councils being more supportive than others.
“The Welsh Government looked at that and decided that a better mechanism was needed.
“So giving councils this extra £40 million without stringent guidelines to ensure it reaches the front line is like putting foxes in charge of the hen house.
“It is the case that the majority of social care, particularly for older people, is provided by the independent sector but I suspect the bulk of the money isn’t going to go there.
“Some local authorities will do their best but we have some councils that would much rather not work with the independent sector.”
‘Feather their nests’
Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan annunced the extra funding this morning, saying that social care in Wales faced “significant pressures as a result of the pandemic” and “the workforce is exhausted from working so hard for so long”.
“This new funding recognises the challenges the sector is facing and will help to address some of the financial pressures it faces,” she said. “It also includes new funding to invest in priority areas to improve services, in line with our ambitions and commitments.
“We will continue supporting social care in Wales and, as we recover from the pandemic, will build a strong and resilient social care sector.”
But while more money was very much welcomed, Mario Kreft said it would not significantly change anything unless the “broken social care system was fixed” first.
He said that councils were openly saying they want to take services in house and this presents them with another opportunity to bolster their own provision “at the expense of the people being cared for by the independent sector”.
“This already happening,” he said. “The fees they pay to their own council-run care homes are far in excess of what they allocate to independent care homes and the wages they pay are higher than the budget they allocate to the independent providers to pay our staff.
“As far as local authorities are concerned, they will see this as another golden opportunity to feather their own nests.
“It is imperative that this money is channelled directly to the front line across Wales and that councils are not allowed to cream the money off the top.
“The current model of funding which has been in operation for a quarter of a century is clearly not fit for purpose and never has been.”
He added that the priority had to be to “devise a national action plan to implement long-term structural change to mend a system that’s broken and fragmented”.
“The way ahead is to be found in the Welsh Government’s White Paper about social care which clearly says we need a new national framework for setting fees,” he said.